Here’s what the FBI is really about. James Crawford and Fred Davis. Two retired FBI agents who had the misfortune to be assigned to the Boston FBI office during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Two well spoken witnesses, totally credible, who had no agendas. They were subpoenaed to testify; they appeared in court and swore an oath to tell the truth to the best of their ability; and that’s what they did.
They didn’t suffer memory lapses, they didn’t seek to please one side over the other, they simply did their best to answer the questions asked. The spoke with authority. It was like a breath of fresh air coming into the court room.
The only problem I saw with their testimony is that they seemed to have been called to testify in the wrong case. I couldn’t leave the overflow press room until the end of the day since I had to wait until the camera gave a shot of the whole courtroom so I could see who was the defendant. When I saw Whitey standing at counsel table I was relieved, I thought somehow the defendant had morphed into imprisoned ex-FBI agent John Connolly. Seriously folks, the evidence was better suited to a trial against Connolly than against Whitey.
The trial seemed at times to be one of those horrible gang-ups where a group of guys go after one person who is by himself and do a job on him. Here we had both parties vying to see who could bring out the worst about John Connolly who is sitting in a cell in Florida. Whitey wants him to look bad because it backs up his claim that he was corrupt and he paid money to him; Wyshak wants to make him look bad because he was a friend of Billy Bulger’s, at least that’s the best I could make out of the redirect by Kelly who pointed out Billy attended Connolly’s retirement party, apparently not realizing the worse he makes Connolly look the more likely it looks like Whitey wasn’t an informant.
The big loser in this is John Connolly. He had no one representing him so it was a free-for-all to take shots at him. As far as who won or loss between the two contending sides, I’d have to give it hands down to the defense team, with the caveat, none of it matters.
It’s good for the prosecution that the trial has gone so far down the wrong path. The prosecution took a few round house rights square on the chinny chin chin during cross-examination which would have put it down for the count had things mattered. I mentioned how Kelly opened the door to let Olga Davis’s evidence against Flemmi in on re-direct. Wyshak unable to leave well enough alone, tried to go after Agent Davis who said when he reviewed Whitey’s informant file in 1979 or 1980 he recommended Whitey be closed out because it had nothing of value in it.
Wyshak produced two files filled with papers already in evidence and said look at these how can you say there was nothing in Whitey’s informant files. Davis looks at the first and says all these are dated after I did my review; he looks at the second and after a bit says this wasn’t the file I reviewed. It now looks even worse for Wyshak since you have to conclude the file was changed at some point after Davis made his recommendation. And we know how easy that would have been because the file went from Davis’s custody into Morriss’s shortly after the review.
Wyshak’s dilemma is he trying to prove opposites from the same evidence: Connolly’s a bad agent he filed fake reports; Connolly’s a good agent he filed true reports.
Having been thwarted in his attempt to have the jurors question his assessment of Whitey’s file, Whyshak starts to attack Davis for not doing more about stopping Connolly who wasn’t in his squad. Davis fends him off quite well by explaining in effect you don’t act on rumors. So Wyshak goes after SAC Sarhatt and ASAC Fitpatrick for not doing anything about Connolly. (I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with the case – don’t worry you’re not alone so am I.)
Davis indicated the SAC and ASAC were the front office and he had little idea what they were doing. Wyshak then asks, what did you think of SAC Sarhatt. Davis said he was one of the finest men he ever met. Well what about ASAC Fitzpatrick, Wyshak asks. Davis says he’s known him for many years, he too was a fine man. Davis added that most of the men in the Boston office were good men.
You’ve heard the song: “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” That’s as much a necessity in trying a case as it is in gambling. Carney and Brennan didn’t cross-examine every government witness, they were selective and only went after those they knew they could get something out of.
The prosecution seems to have no understanding of this. They had two honest witnesses who were talking about something they know about who did marginal damage to the main issues in the case. If they wanted to get something specific from them, they could have done it but to charge in against this type witness and think you can damage him about something that happened on his own home turf is utterly naive.
Kelly’s first two questions on cross were excellent: Flemmi’s partner was Whitey Bulger; informants don’t testify. Then he goes off the deep end asking about Billy Bulger and Olga Davis. Wyshak took a beating on the size of Whitey’s informant file and the quality of agents serving in Boston. Neither man’s cross did any damage but only served to reinforce Crawford’s and Davis’s testimony.
Hopefully they’ll learn from their errors and not get sucker shot again. It’s a true axiom in trial work, ‘don’t ask a witness a question on cross-examination unless you know the answer.” It’s a good thing they have a case that can’t be lost.